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Pope Francis' Sister: 'I Prayed That He Wouldn't Be Chosen'

A man in San Salvador sells a newspaper with the announcement of the election of Argentina's cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the new Pope Francis.
Jose Cabezas
AFP/Getty Images
A man in San Salvador sells a newspaper with the announcement of the election of Argentina's cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the new Pope Francis.

As the sun rose over Latin America this morning, we're getting a clearer picture of how Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio — now Pope Francis — was viewed in his home of Argentina and what the first pope from the New World could mean for the continent.

We've read through dozens of news outlets from the region to bring you highlights:

-- Mexico's El Universal sums up a conversation María Elena Bergoglio, Francis' sister, had with the Argentinian television station C5N. María Elena said after she learned her brother had ended up second last time around, "I prayed he wouldn't be chosen."

"By the grace of God, I had the opportunity to travel and meet Pope John Paul II. When it was my turn to kneel and kiss his ring, I lifted my head to look at him and found a gaze so full of love and so full of loneliness, the two things at the same time," she said.

"I feel like we have to pray a lot for [Francis], because we are living in a tough world, in a tough moment for the church and he needs help from God permanently " María Elena added.

-- Perhaps the most insightful piece we've read comes from the Agencia Informatica Católica Argentina — or the Catholic wire service in Argentina. The agency spoke to priests and coordinators in slums that surround Buenos Aires.

Pope Francis, the service reports, has already been termed "papa de los villeros" or "the pope for the slum dwellers."

The service reports that during his tenure as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis multiplied the number of priests serving the slums.

"Now his limits won't be the archdiocese," Father Pepe told the news outlet. "Now it's the world and he will have to take up the task in other places like Africa, where there are many who work in favor of the poor."

Francis, others recount, visited the slums frequently, celebrating mass and washing the feet of drug addicts.

"Everyone here felt very close to him," the slum priests program coordinator said. "They talk about his way of being. The poor in general are very close to him. He'd visit jails and hospitals; he'd ride the bus and subway. He had a closeness with the street."

One thing that's worth highlighting is that in many of the interviews of this piece, the focus is on Francis' ministering, not necessarily his charity work.

This goes hand in hand with what he said during his first homily today in Rome.

Reuters reports that he urged the church "not to forget its primary mission of proclaiming the message of Jesus Christ or risk being reduced to what he called 'a compassionate NGO.'"

-- Nicaragua's La Prensa reports that the chair of the Archdiocese of Managua, father Boanerges Carballo, riffed on that same issue saying Francis' election is "transcendental and demands that the church in the region be more dynamic in its missionary life and service to the poor."

-- Argentina's El Clarín sheds a little more light on Francis' time during Argentina's military dictatorship. As Mark noted this morning, there have always been grumblings that "Francis did not protect his Jesuit priests the way he should have."

El Clarín spoke to Alicia Oliveira, a friend of Francis' who was a judge during the coup d'état.

Oliveira tells the paper that when she was pushed out by the military, Francis stood by her.

"When I became totally unoccupied, Jorge sent me flowers to be with me at that moment," she said.

Oliveira also says that two priests who went missing during his tenure were at a different slum than he was and he had warned them to leave the country because it was too dangerous.

-- Argentina's La Nacion reports Pope Francis already has a doll in his likeness.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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